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Shamrock, Nawalapitiya. Nawalapitiya came up in colonial times as a town built around a British railway hub, as far as I can tell.

My grandmother grew up in tough times. She was born in 1926, whence ignorance was rife and widespread. Women died of childbirth because their families did not want them exposed to doctors who were invariably ‘strange men’. Babies were delivered by midwives who would walk straight in from the tea estates, and wouldn’t really bother with washing their hands. Umbilical cords would be cut with anything handy; yes that rusty old scissors will do fine. Unsurprisingly, infant mortality was high.

My great grandmother died of childbirth; her immune system was weakened and welcomed a fatal attack of malaria, which overtook her newborn as well. They remained at home until they died. Never seeing a doctor. My great grandfather was rich, but money had nothing to do with it. She was a woman, and in those times there were certain things women weren’t eligible for. He married again and his second wife suffered the same fate. (Nonplussed, my great grandfather married for the third time, but thankfully she survived. He had altogether 18 or 20 surviving children.)

A newborn came into a wild place. For every family sporting ten healthy children, there were two or three that died; still births, disease; people just took it in their stride. My grandmother delivered seven of her six children at home, but by her time she access to qualified midwives.

Of a keen intelligence is my grandmother. And she has a PhD, in the school of life. But in those days girls were not educated. Muslim girls, especially, were not exposed to strange eyes and they were mostly kept at home; one reason why she enjoyed school so much.

Because even though her father refused to educate her, her grandmother, who was another rock a linchpin just like my grandmother would become, would not stand for it. My great-great grandmother took over the care of her son’s first flock after their mother died, and with her the rules were somewhat different.

They were sent to school; the car and by extension wealth, enabled them to remain secluded. A cloth separated the rear and front so that the driver could not see them. But in those days they used to say; ‘girls need only be educated until they have learned to sign their name’ and eventually this saying came back to haunt my grandma as it did thousands of other girls at the time, and many girls to this day. She was taken out of school when she was fourteen, and at sixteen she was married.

This is slightly unbelievable now, but back then the bride and groom really weren’t allowed to see each other before marriage. The parents would close the deal, and my grandparents only met on the day of their wedding.

My grandmother didn’t mind, marriage offered the only way out of her secluded, pampered existence. It was only after marriage that she saw the world, spoke to people at large, and took a train ride. My granddad was in the Police, and they traveled far and wide for his work. My uncles, mother and aunt were born in places as diverse as Jaffna, Kalutara, Colombo and Nawalapitiya (which is where, decades later, I was born as well).

I like hearing stories from that time. Most of it makes me nostalgic, but some of it shocks, like the denial of basic rights of education and health to women, and the acceptance of this as a part of the cultural identity of being Muslim, carried out by people with good intentions. I guess its a testament to how far corruption can spread so as to seem normal, a lesson for today perhaps.

This ignorance was a sad reality of the community back then. But it is not a reality of Islam. Ignorance started to disappear as religious knowledge spread. And cultural practices long adhered to in an age where colonial invasion had all but destroyed active religious life (many would not attend Friday prayers, let alone pray five times daily), were slowly abandoned as the community gradually modernized. Back then going against customs so set in stone would have called upon the wrath of society, today Sri Lankan Muslim society accepts most of those customs as relics of an age of ignorance.

That is not to say though, that we are completely rid of faults. Muslims continue to do things in the name of religion that would make the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) raise his eyebrows at the very least. We bicker and fight among ourselves, and we fail to stand up for justice. And yes some of our women still face abuse, even though that abuse may not always be in the same form the outside world paints it out to be.

These are not the faults of Islam, but they are the faults of Muslims, and not all Muslims either. We are much better than we used to be, but there are long ways yet to go. But there is hope for me in the story of my grandmother. Let’s have patience, and persevere.

The Quran is considered to be a miracle in itself. It is a unparallelled masterpiece of literary achievement and contains many allusions to modern science that no man living in the desert 1500 years ago could have known. Below is one example of  this taken out of http://scienceislam.com

 

Modern Science has discovered that in the places where two different seas meet, there is a barrier between them. This barrier divides the two seas so that each sea has its own temperature, salinity, and density.

[Principles of Oceanography – Davis, pp. 92-93]

For example, Mediterranean Sea water is warm, saline and less dense, compared to Atlantic Ocean water. When Mediterranean Sea water enters the Atlantic over the Gibraltar sill, it moves several hundred kilometers into the Atlantic at a depth of about 1,000 meters with its own warm, saline and less dense characteristics.
The Mediterranean water stabilizes at this depth.

[Principles of Oceanography p. 93]

The Mediterranean Sea water as it enters the Atlantic over the Gibraltar sill with its own warm, saline and less dense characteristics, because of the barrier that distinguishes between them. Temperatures are in degrees Celsius (C).

Even in depths (indicated here by darker colors) up to 1,400 meters and at distances ranging from a minus -100 to +2,500 meters, we find that both bodies of water maintain their individual temperatures and salinity.

Although there are large waves, strong currents, and tides in these seas, they do not mix or transgress this barrier.

The Holy Quran mentioned that there is a barrier between two seas that meet and that they do not transgress. God said:

He has let free the two seas meeting to gather. There is a barrier between them. They do not transgress.

 [Noble Quran 55:19-20]

But when the Quran speaks about the divider between fresh and salt water, it mentions the existence of “a forbidding partition” with the barrier.

God said in the Quran:

He is the one who has let free the two bodies of flowing water, one sweet and palatable, and the other salty and bitter. And He has made between them a barrier and a forbidding partition.

[Noble Quran 25:53]

On may ask, why did the Quran mention the partition when speaking about the divider between fresh and salt water, but did not mention it when speaking about the divider between the two seas?

Modern science has discovered that in estuaries, where fresh (sweet) and salt water meet, the situation is somewhat different from what is found in places where two seas meet. It has been discovered that what distinguishes fresh water from salt water in estuaries is a “pycnocline zone with a marked density discontinuity separating the two layers.”

[Oceanography p. 242]

This partition (zone of separation) has a different salinity from the fresh water and from the salt water

[Oceanography p. 244 and Introductory Oceanography pp. 300-301]

This information has been discovered only recently using advanced equipment to measure temperature, salinity, density, oxygen dissolubility, etc. The human eye cannot see the difference between the two seas that meet, rather the two seas appear to us as one homogeneous sea. Likewise the human eye cannot see the division of water in estuaries into the three kinds: the fresh water, the salt water, the partition (zone of separation).

More at http://scienceislam.com

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